Standing in the gap for parents

By: JOAN THATIAH

“I had my daughter pretty early. While I struggled during my early parenting years, I knew that I couldn’t undo my mistakes.

I swore that I would do everything to ensure that my daughter wouldn’t make the same mistakes I made, so I started speaking to primary school pupils 15 years ago. Today, I have a bigger platform to reach teens and pre-teens all over Kenya.

“I was up at 4 am this morning. After my usual morning workout routine, I read a few pages of Sharon A. Harsh’s Mom, Sex is No Big Deal. It talks about helping your daughter build a healthy sexual identity. After that I prepared notes for a presentation at a school before I left the house.

“My first stop was a private university where I head the student welfare department. I spent the whole morning talking to the students and listening to and solving their problems.

Then I went for my afternoon talks. I have talks with teens and pre-teens most afternoons in various institutions in six counties around the country.

“Parents today are too busy for their children. Those that aren’t, are unconsciously shirking their responsibilities. The statistics are alarming. Up to 63 per cent of teens between 13 and 15 in Kenya today have engaged in some form of sexual relations.

I am trying to bridge the gap. To tell them the things that they haven’t heard about sex. Not the biology, the other truths surrounding sex. It isn’t easy getting through to teenagers but when, I do, and it is fulfilling.

It is a bitter-sweet feeling, though. As much as I want them to open up to me, I wish it was their parents they were making this progress with.

“I have been talking to teens for so long but I am just realising that it doesn’t matter how long you have been teaching other people’s children, it will be hard talking about condoms with your own.

An extensive talk I had with my daughter the other day has to be the most memorable. I wish I had had such a talk when I was her age.

“In the evening, I had a one-on-one with a teenager. I have learnt that it is easiest to get someone to open up when you share your own experiences. I also like to make it as informal as possible, so for the last half hour, we walked to a coffee shop and talked over a cuppa.

“As I turned in at 11pm, I was thinking about a workshop that I am preparing for teen parents in December. I wish we could stop seeing them through tinted glasses and instead see them for what they really are, bundles of emotions that are propelled by passion.”

SOURCE: DAILY NATION